Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Why start with "I took you out of Egypt"? Part 1


"Rabbi Yehudah haLevi, who rests in honour, asked me why it mentioned, 'I am HaShem your Gd who took you out of the land of Egypt,' and not, 'I made the heavens and the earth, and I made you'?

"I responded: Know that different levels of people have different beliefs in their heart, in their belief in the honoured Gd. Many believe in that which they hear, when their masters tell them so; higher than them are those who saw it recorded in the Torah that Gd gave to Moshe. And should a heretic come to challenge that there is no Gd, they would put their hands to their mouths, not knowing what to answer… But because of the sign that Gd performed in Egypt, Moshe declared, 'You have been shown, to know,' for all saw this, sages and non-sages, great and small. Moshe added in this vein at the Gathering at Sinai when they heard the voice of Gd…"

שאלני ר' יהודה הלוי מנוחתו כבוד, למה הזכיר אנכי ד' אלקיך אשר הוצאתיך מארץ מצרים, ולא אמר שעשיתי שמים וארץ ואני עשיתיך. וזאת היתה תשובתי אליו.

דע, כי אין מעלות בני אדם שוות באמונתם בלבם, שהם מאמינים בשם הנכבד. כי הרבים מאמינים להשמעות אזנים שיאמר להם אדוניהם ככה. ולמעלה מהם, שראו זה כתוב בדברי התורה שנתן ד' למשה. ואם יבוא אפיקורס לערער, כי אין אלקים, ישימו ידם לפיהם, כי לא ידעו להשיב... והנה בעבור האות שעשה ד' במצרים, אמר משה אתה הראת לדעת (דברים ד, לה). שהכל ראו זה, חכמים ושאינן חכמים, גדולים וקטנים. גם הוסיף עוד בדבר מעמד הר סיני ששמעו קול ד'... 

(Ibn Ezra to Shemot 20:1 [extended commentary])

Have a great day,


  1. I am trying to place this conversation in time. Because in R Yehudah haLevi''s the Kuzari, the Chakham says "I believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, who led the children of Israel out of Egypt with signs and miracles..." (sec. I, par 11), the Kuzari king asks a parallel question about that answer (par. 12) and the Rabbi answers the discussion that sakes up most of sec. 1 that establishing faith on ntional experience is more certain than relying on philosophical speculation. Not that revalation was necessary because not everyone could be a sage, but because two sagicious philosphers can each prove conflicting things -- philosophy is not as certain an enterprise as people like to think.

    So why would Rihal have asked the Ibn Ezra this question? Was it well before writing the Kuzari, and the question was one he was working on himself? Or was he curious to hear other answers before committing a 5th of his work to his? Or was it just his favorite conversation starter later in life?

  2. R' Micha-
    I would assume something along the lines of your last suggestion, but I don't know.